WDBJ7 General Manager: 'Our Hearts Are Broken' for Alison Parker and Adam Ward

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Members of a Virginia news crew, Alison Parker and Adam Ward were killed while on a reporting trip on Wednesday. WDBJ7/Twitter

The two journalists fatally shot while broadcasting live in Virginia early Wednesday morning were remembered by their co-workers at WDBJ7 as professional individuals who brightened up a room.

Alison Parker, 24, a reporter, and Adam Ward, 27, a photojournalist, were interviewing a woman for a feature story live at Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, Virginia, when an armed man fired several shots at them. The two journalists worked together each morning, and neither hesitated to take on new assignments, their co-workers said. The pair covered everything from community events to breaking news.

"I cannot tell you how much they were loved, Alison and Adam, by the WDBJ7 team," Jeff Marks, the general manager of the news channel, said in an emotional declaration on air. "Our hearts are broken." The morning news team called themselves "one big family," he added.

Parker's co-workers described her as smart and ambitious, a good friend and "rockstar" with a "bubbly" personality who recently had celebrated her 24th birthday and loved the outdoors. "You throw anything at that girl and she can do it," said anchor Kimberly McBroom, who was sitting at the news desk when the shooting occurred on live TV. She held back tears as she spoke to viewers.

Parker grew up in Martinsville, Virginia, and later graduated with honors from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She first started working at the station four years ago as an intern, and later rejoined the team as a full-time employee in 2014.

"She was everything and brightened up every room," said Chris Hurst, her boyfriend and a WDBJ7 anchor. "No matter what was going on, she was a positive person."

On Twitter, Hurst described Parker as "the most radiant woman I ever met." The couple had been dating for almost nine months, he wrote.

Ward, who first started working at the station in the production department, was remembered as a dedicated employee who would return to work as soon as he heard about a breaking news story. He planned to leave the news industry soon and move to Charlotte, Virginia, with his fiancée, Melissa Ott, a WDBJ7 producer whose last day working at the station was Wednesday. Ward had scheduled a job interview in Charlotte for Wednesday afternoon when his shift ended. The couple planned to get married next year.

"You see that smile on his face? That's always how he looked out covering the news," McBroom said. "He loved to talk, and he would always give these long-winded answers."

Ward was a graduate of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and also started at the station as an intern.

Both Parker and Ward were from Roanoke.

They were "just out doing their job today, covering a story," Marks said, adding that whenever he saw them, Parker and Ward were full of smiles and exuberance for their accomplishments.

"When we come in, they just make this newsroom come alive," meteorologist Leo Hirsbrunner said. "Alison, you can hear her a mile away coming down the hall."

The alleged shooter, former WDBJ employee Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, reportedly shot himself in Fauquier County, Virginia, just before 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday. He died two hours later at a hospital, Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton told reporters at an afternoon press conference.

Five hours earlier, Flanagan allegedly opened fire on the two journalists. They had been interviewing Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, at Bridgewater Plaza for a story about the upcoming 50th anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake, which is man-made, near Roanoke. Gardner was shot in the back, underwent surgery and is in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries, said Chris Turnbull, spokesman for Carilion Clinic in Roanoke.

Screaming was heard shortly after the shots were fired on air, Marks said. "Then we heard nothing and the camera fell," he added.

Ward's camera continued to film at the time of the shooting. A still image from the footage later helped police identify the suspect, who is seen pointing the gun, WDBJ7 reported.

A memorial gathering was held at the news station on Wednesday afternoon.

"All there is in our building today is hugging and crying and consoling," Marks said. "You're never prepared for this, and you just pray every day that your people are going to be safe."

In the United States, journalist killings are relatively rare. At least five journalists have been killed in the country since 1992, when the Committee to Protect Journalists began keeping records. The most recent killing was in August 2007, when Chauncey Bailey, editor-in-chief of the Oakland Post in California, was shot dead on a street.

"We cover these things all the time. It's tough covering it when you don't know the people," WDBJ7 anchor Jean Jadhon said about shootings. "When it's two of your own, and so young..."

We didn't share this publicly, but Alison Parker and I were very much in love. We just moved in together. I am numb. We...

Posted by Chris Hurst Wdbj on Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WDBJ7 General Manager: 'Our Hearts Are Broken' for Alison Parker and Adam Ward | U.S.